Watch for dead new growth on spruce trees. There have been many such cases at the Plant Clinic in the last several weeks, and samples are easy to find in the Champaign-Urbana area. Samples submitted to the Plant Clinic showed death of only the newest growth on the trees. This was all of this year’s growth, a total of a few inches in length. Other growth on the trees was healthy. One major concern was whether this could be a disease problem. Samples were incubated to force sporulation of any fungal pathogens present. None were present in these samples. The death of new growth was not the result of an infectious disease.|
The affected tissue was often most severe on the west side of the tree. All similar species in the area were affected. The facts strongly suggest an environmental injury. One possibility, if the trees are near a road, is that new growth was injured by salt-spray burn. It is likely that symptoms are the result of recent strong winds over much of the state. Certainly the west side would be more exposed to wind injury, and new growth is most easily injured. Symptoms may also have resulted from recent cold night temperatures following some very hot weather that produced succulent new growth. Strong winds and the sun would certainly desiccate this tissue more quickly than elsewhere on the tree. I do not see a lasting problem and suggest only that these trees get supplemental water in drought stress to help tree vitality. The dead tips will fall off with time, and the trees should recover nicely.